Meetings Industry Predictions for 2012

December 26, 2011

December and January spark articles and blog posts filled with predictions for the New Year. While I cannot really know what will happen in the world, I do have some observations about meetings and conferences from my time spent as a keynote and breakout speaker at more than 300 events (59 presentations in 2011).

1. The meetings business will continue to recover from the hits it took in the recession. I am bullish on the state of face-to-face gatherings and believe that neither an ongoing bad economy nor the virtual options that exist to deliver content can replace the need for humans to gather. The hard-working meeting organizers will still have to do more with less, but they will put on some amazing shows.

2.  Networking opportunities will continue to be a main reason people attend meetings, but many conferences will always come up short on creating an environment where people can get past their trepidation about going beyond idle chit-chat, putting down their smartphones and get to meaningful conversations. Creating a networking culture will be a topic that will become more important to meeting planners.

3.  Social media will still be a hot topic, as it has been for the last three years. The number of break-out sessions on topics about how-to use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., will continue be prevalent on agendas. Both the meeting organizers and those who attend will keep looking to social media as a way to build community.

4. More people will be calling themselves "speakers" in 2012 than ever before. Internet consultant Simon Salt recently said that "Speaking is the new blogging". A few years ago, it was popular to identify oneself as a "blogger", and now there seems to be a movement for people to add "Conference Speaker" to their bios. The problem is that not everyone has the presentation experience that the audience desires and deserves, and a poor presentation can hurt the experience for everyone. This trend will cause more confusion and work for meeting organizers when vetting the speakers for their events.

5. Short presentations. I have experienced a trend where organizers are only seeking 15 to 20 minutes talks from speakers (for both paid and non-paid speakers). The success of TED and TEDx has put an emphasis on a meeting having more people sharing short bursts of captivating ideas. This trend will continue to gain traction in 2012.

6. People at conferences will vote with their feet. If an audience does not resonate with the speaker, it will become more common for them to stand up and walk out during a presentation. This trend of "voting with your feet" has become socially acceptable at technology focused events (such as SXSW Interactive) during the past few years, but will expand to more meetings in the future.

7. Pre-event communities online will continue to gain popularity. Event organizers are putting more attention into expanding the event community before and after the event by creating online communities. While some events will struggle getting their attendees to connect beyond their physical gathering, others will find the secret sauce to engagement.

8. Events that deliver a little more than expected will flourish. Doing what is expected is the minimum. Going farther will make people smile and have a better memory of the experience.

Have a great 2012.

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